Today and tomorrow, 30 and 31 October, the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union will hold an international conference 'Cross-Border Aspects in Alcohol Policy – Tackling Harmful Use of Alcohol' in Tallinn. Experts from Europe and beyond – policy makers and scientists in the fields of health, culture, agriculture and finance are discussing the main cross-border aspects of alcohol policy – alcohol labelling, cross-border trade, and cross-border alcohol advertising, including in new media.
The Estonian Minister for Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski will host the conference. "The harmful use of alcohol is a serious public health concern in Europe, causing extensive health and economic losses every year. Health policy, including alcohol policy, is in the competence of the member states; however factors affecting health often lay in the hands of other sectors, many of which have harmonised EU rules. There are things that can be done by the member states, but there are a number of issues that we could deal with more effectively together with other countries," said Minister Ossinovski. "Therefore, we have made alcohol policy one of our priorities during the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The conference in Tallinn provides an opportunity to seek, in cooperation with experts from other sectors, solutions to cross-border issues that limit the opportunities of national governments to protect public health."
The conference will seek answers to the following questions: What are the potential gains and losses of giving up the labelling exception for alcoholic beverages? How can we protect young people and children from the impact of cross-border alcohol advertising? Does the self-regulation of the alcohol industry work? What is the appropriate response to the growing cross-border trade? How can alcohol consumption patterns and health effects be measured and how can the comparability of the collected data from different member states be ensured? What steps should be taken by member states and the European Commission to reduce alcohol-related harm?
The keynote speakers of the conference are Dr Martin McKee, a professor from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Dr David Jernigan, a professor from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the United States. Among the anticipated speakers are the Lithuanian Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga; Director for Public Health of the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety John F. Ryan; Director of the Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Promoting Health through the Life-Course and WHO Regional Office for Europe representative Gauden Galea; the European Commission's Joint Research Centre analyst Sandra Caldeira; and OECD health policy analyst Michele Cecchini. Among other Estonian experts, the Director of the Institute of Economic Research Marje Josing; Deputy Secretary General on Taxation and Customs Policy of the Ministry of Finance Dmitri Jegorov; and Deputy Secretary General on Health of the Ministry of Social Affairs Maris Jesse, will be speakers at the conference.
Alcohol is associated with more than 200 different health problems and alcohol-related harm is estimated at € 372 billion a year in Europe. The aim of the conference is to reduce alcohol-related harm in the EU by strengthening member states' capacities to implement effective health policy and tackle cross-border issues.
Tackling alcohol related harm is one of the priorities of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the field of health. The cross-border aspects of alcohol policy were discussed by the health ministers at the informal meeting in Tallinn on 21 July. The Estonian Presidency is preparing the EU Council conclusions aiming to adopt these at the health ministers’ Council meeting in December in Brussels.